Johann Zarco was encouraged by his performance on the opening day of free practice at Phillip Island in Australia as the French rider went eighth fastest overall.

The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was second quickest in FP1 before dropping some places in the afternoon, although his time 1m 29.667s was only four-tenths down on surprise pacesetter Aleix Espargaro on the Gresini Aprilia.

MotoGP rookie Zarco, who claimed pole for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, said he felt confident from the off on Friday.

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“It’s been a good day and I’m happy that I begin on a good pace. The bike is working well and I could do a good lap time quickly, so this gave me good confidence and a good, relaxed way,” he said.

“We are working with the team to be faster in the afternoon, to be faster compared to the morning, but everybody was quite fast and we are so close. This means that it won’t be easy to do big improvements but I’m hoping I will find a good position for the next race.”

Stability in the high-speed corners at Phillip Island has proven problematic for many riders on day one and it was no different for Zarco, who said the combination of speed and the notorious windy conditions at the circuit posed some challenges.

He said: “I think that stability is a problem – when you have a lot of wind and the speed at this track, the bike is moving a lot of times; I will try to fix it.”

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Ride the wind of changes as the seagulls, Johann !